money in politics

Voices

VoicesEighty percent of Americans who know of the over-reaching, legislation-from-the-bench Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case – the one that ensured unlimited money influencing our politics – want it reversed.  That number varies by just a handful of percentage points, depending on respondents’ political views.  This issue is the venue where ultra-left tree huggers and hair-on-fire Tea Party members can join hands, sing Kumbaya and wave Don’t Tread On Me flags, all at the same time.  The trick in getting action on this is to expand the number of Americans who know about the CU decision so that we can exert sufficient pressure on lawmakers to pass the 28th Amendment to the Constitution to get big money out of our political process.

It was to that educational purpose that I crafted the Money, Politics and Democracy program that I have been delivering to various local groups for the better part of a year.  I delivered it last week to a fledgling group in DuPage and Will Counties who care enough about this issue to leave their front porches on a lovely summer evening and sit in a hot meeting room in order to learn.

Be clear that I have another motive in my talk.  It is to motivate people to take action.  And it is to that point that I direct you to an essay by Jesmyn Ward in today’s New York Times entitled A Cold Current.  Her story is about racism, the devaluing of people by “othering” and how we react to that.  There is a parallel to her story in today’s economically punitive America.

Think about the America you believe in, the one you want to leave to your children and grandchildren.  Look deep into your notion of The American Dream.  You better think about it, because we are crafting the America we will bequeath to your descendents right now.  It is just possible that the dream that you hold dear for your dear ones and yourself is a different dream than that dreamed by the leaders of our pharmaceutical industry, our energy barons, the fabulously wealthy individuals – the 1%.  That is because those people are exactly like everyone else in this sense:  We all act in what we believe to be our best interests.

I don’t even remotely imagine that the Koch brothers arise every day with sights on the evil they might do or the mischief they can create for most Americans.  As the titans of Big Pharma spent $390 per second fighting Obamacare, they weren’t doing it to ensure that our healthcare system remains the worst among industrialized nations.  Neither do the leaders of the American Petroleum Institute air its television ads with the pretty blonde in a black pants suit in order to create more super-hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy so that more Americans might suffer and die.  They do those things because it is in their financial best interests to do what they do, so they spend the big money to make their voices heard.  It is all about the voices.

So, rather than putting your effort into demonizing the big bucks class in America, your energy needs to be focused on making your voice heard.  Let go of any notion of instant gratification, because this is a long term push.  Just understand this:  If you don’t make your voice heard, people with a very different dream for America from the one you believe in will have their voices heard, because they will be the only ones talking.

Now go read Jesmyn Ward’s piece.  Read it first for her message about racism.  Then read it again and substitute “classism” and you’ll understand.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Bankruptcy

Jailed-protesters-vs-jailed-bankers-editorial-cartoon-300x228No, not that kind.

This is about political bankruptcy.  It is about a Republican Party that doesn’t make decisions based on fact and, in fact, ignores fact and instead creates fatuous fantasies.  It is a party that brought us a president who doesn’t read, who ignores facts and who makes decisions based on gut hunches.  No, I didn’t make that up.  It is what President George W. Bush told us about the way he makes decisions And, yes, he had the “football” and could have pushed the button to send nuclear missiles to annihilate millions based solely on his “gut hunch.”

This is a party that is legally bankrupt, as it seeks to institutionalize discrimination with a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.  This is a party that is legally bankrupt as state house after state house finds diabolical ways to prohibit from voting American citizens who are not white or who are poor.

This is a party that is morally bankrupt, as it chants the same mantra year after year, that it is all about jobs, jobs, jobs, but every opportunity to stimulate job growth has been filibustered by Republicans on the floor of the Senate or voted down by the Republican dominated House.  Okay, there was one bill – the veterans jobs legislation – but the Republicans had to be shamed into passing it.

But let’s be fair.  The Democrats took over in 2009 and have steadfastly refused to prosecute Wall Street bankers who defrauded the public with their swamp of mortgage derivatives.  The same Justice Department has refused to prosecute bankers for their millions of fraudulent home mortgage foreclosures.  This is the same Democratic Party that refused to create legislation to prevent another round of “too big to fail” and, guess what, once again the banks are too big to fail.

This is the Democratic administration that has refused to prosecute the prior administration for its blatant lawbreaking by torturing prisoners and for illegal detention.  And it is the same party and administration that has expanded the war in Afghanistan, a war that plainly cannot be won.  History would have told President Bush that fact before he commanded an invasion, but he would have had to have read a history book to know that.

This is a war with ever-morphing goals, no strategy for success, with a continuing supply of dead bodies and an economic cost that will eventually reach $4 to 6 trillion dollars And this is a war that President Obama has continued and expanded, notwithstanding his pledge to end American military involvement by the end of next year.  How many more dead Americans will we have created between now and then?  Would you like to be the last soldier or marine to die for that unholy cause?

The far righties hold dear a deep distrust of government.  They are right to do that, because they continue to champion and elect untrustworthy legislators.

The far lefties are never happy because government continues to eviscerate the values and rights they hold dear.  But they sit on their recliners on election day or fail to jump through the hoops necessary to register to vote or they just drop out entirely and complain loudly.

We get the government we deserve – or do we deserve the government we get?  Either way, we’ll continue to get what we are getting now until we require better.  Until then, you can expect a government in the pocket of corporations and fabulously wealthy people who crave money and power above all else.  They are the ones who pull the strings of the Marionette America and bringing to us our national bankruptcy.  We are the ones who tolerate that.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Are You an Old, Rich White Guy?

Rich white guyPollution is an ordinary part of manufacturing.  For example, those shiny, chrome plated gizmos like your ballpoint pen and the reflectors of the tail lights of your car are bathed in toxic chrome when they are made and they drip chrome into the water that rinses them.  Capturing that residual chrome is much more expensive than just flushing it down the drain, so chrome platers don’t much like EPA regulations that make them install expensive waste water treatment facilities.  Those who own and run other companies subject to EPA regulations feel pretty much the same way.

Come to think of it, lots of companies don’t much care for OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, either.  That government bureau makes companies do expensive things, like install safety devices that prevent people from being decapitated or electrocuted or having their hands chopped off in manufacturing machinery.  OSHA requires construction companies to ensure that their employee wear hard hats so that their heads don’t get sliced or crushed.  All of that costs money that companies don’t like to spend.

Those pesky state legislatures have passed laws that require that your children be in child safety seats and that you be belted in and air bagged.  All of that costs money that car manufacturers don’t like spending.

Old, rich white guys like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson and others who own the companies that we force to spend extra money in order to protect all of us want to do away with lots of government driven protection.  They want that precisely because that protection costs old, rich white guys money.  Indeed, over the years the car companies resisted pollution controls, safety glass, turn signals, safety belts and more because those things cost money.  If you’d like to know more about the thinking of such people, those who seek money and power over all else, have a look at the words of Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s number two from 1941 – 1945.  He wrote a blistering Op-Ed for the New York Times on April 9, 1944 focused on American Fascism, the blending of government and business. You will likely find that the description in his essay is stunningly and disturbingly similar to our socio-political circumstances today, including the lying, the cheating, the demonizing and, worst of all, greed masquerading as patriotism.  The bulk of that comes from old, rich white guys.  You can find Wallace’s article here and here.

The old, rich white guys are thankful that elections are so expensive that candidates have to continuously grub for cash, especially big pots of it, because then those who are elected become indebted to those old, rich white guys.  That stimulates those politicians to take every measure possible to thwart legislation that might be good for most Americans who are not old, rich white guys.

Those politicians do things like make it harder for non-rich, non-white Americans to vote, because doing so keeps the old, rich white guys in power and in the money and that keeps the politicians well funded and in office.  The flow is so pleasingly circular.  Our national history is replete with egregious examples of voter suppression and the current voter ID laws about to be enacted in Texas, North Carolina and Ohio are the newest.  Those laws will disenfranchise millions of non-rich , non-white Americans and will have the effect of being the final nail in the coffin of democracy.  Hail to the John Roberts Supreme Court for enabling those voter suppression laws through its democracy killing decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case.  That completed the task of ensuring that old, rich white guys control all the money and all the power, a task started with naked hypocrisy by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

In the not-too-distant future history may be written with deference to the old, rich white guys – after all, history is always written by the victors.  But the multitudes who live in subsistence because of the loss of American democracy will not stay there willingly.

The fight for freedom and liberty is never ending and we are at a tipping point in America right now.

Are you an old, rich white guy?  If so, things are working quite well for you and you like the path we’re on.  On the other hand, if you are not an old, rich white guy you will care deeply about this far sooner than you might imagine.  When it starts to pinch, you will squeak and you will fight back.  What do you suppose it will look like when 310 million Americans who are not old, rich white guys are doing that?  I fear for us, because we always seem to wait too long to act and we have always been a violent society.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Special Ice Cream Edition

bjlogoWhatever your issue, budget, debt, global warming, immigration, guns, healthcare, civil rights or any other topic, the reason things aren’t getting better is because of something that controls your issue: Money.  Big money.  Big money that influences elections, politicians and distorts the will of the people into the will of the very few enormously wealthy people.  For more on that, take a look at Larry Lessig’s TED talk.

Should you doubt that big money influence is preventing the will of the people (that’s you) from being done, just recall the recent vote on background checks prior to gun ownership.  Have you ever seen an issue in the United States where 90% of the people were in agreement?  That’s highly unusual and one would expect those who represent us to get the message and vote accordingly.  Didn’t happen that way.  Enough of our politicians flagrantly voted against our wishes because of big money influence and they caused the wrong result.

The Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream guys have something to say about that.  You can read about it here on the CNN Opinion blog.  They explain it better than I do.

Just because those gun money politicians defeated the sensible gun ownership background check that you wanted doesn’t mean that they can defeat everything that we want.  We Money StampAmericans are united in opposition to big money buying our elections and our country.  So, get off your Barcalounger, get a stamp here and get the message out so that next year we will elect candidates who will begin to make things right.

Is this issue important to you?  Comment below and then email this to 3 friends.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

For Purist Lefties and Windshields

WindshieldI’m surely talking to myself here, but this just might fit for others, too. JA

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The Radical Right provides enough material in a single sentence of extremism than can be corrected in a 750-word response.  I’ve heard as many as three fictional facts in a single short sentence.  Let them go on for two minutes and it’s such a dizzying array of fantasy that it’s impossible to know where to begin to correct the falsities.  Those guys know how to spray incendiary, divisive and destructive language.  They’re really good at demanding that everything be decided their way and insisting that that they never make mistakes.

For example, don’t you just hate it when the far righties tell us how safe George W. Bush kept us?  Try telling that to the kids whose mother or father was crushed to death in the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.

Those far righties want to end Medicare and Social Security and they have concocted fatuous, misleading names for the programs they designed to do just that.  Then they have had the gall to tell us that they don’t want to end those programs.

When 20 little kids were gunned down in Newtown, CT the far righties made sure that we didn’t do anything to begin to limit access to the kinds of weapons that make it easy for violent people to do such things.  They insist with self-righteous fervor that they have the one true interpretation of the Second Amendment and they ignore the demands of the rest of us, as they pursue campaign cash to support their careers.

So we call these people crazy.  They are hateful and mean.  They are dishonest in sixteen different ways.  Our guts snarl and our spittle flies as we yell at our windshields.

To pull a Columbo, there’s just one more thing.

What is it that you were saying as President Obama worked toward compromise with congressional Republicans during all those iterations of budget and debt issues?  What was it you were saying as he failed to press for universal health care?  Now he’s offered chained CPI as a negotiating chip.  I’ll bet you had serious juice about those issues and your words for him might have sounded a lot like your comments about crazy righties.

Obama let the Republicans kill his jobs bill, even as they were telling us it was all about jobs, jobs, jobs.  You pilloried the Republicans, but did you also lambast Obama for his lack of leadership on the issue?

How many times did you wail that Obama gave up his negotiating leverage by caving in at the beginning of discussions with Republicans?  It seems that President Obama just won’t be the absolutist leftie some want him to be.  Maybe you’ve sprayed a coating on the inside of your windshield over that.

We can keep strolling down the path of all the ways Obama and the Democrats have failed – surely that has happened.  Yet here’s the key point:  governing is compromising and nobody gets all of what they want all of the time.

The Radical Righties have done a really good job of strong-arming America for over a decade.  Their demand that everything be decided in the far righty way is incomprehensible to many; just get that a similar demand from the far left is just as incomprehensible.

For those who get off on anger, who feel powerful by living in their disparagement of anything and anyone who disagrees with them, I have a news flash:  You are a lot like those whom you pillory.

Fight for what you believe in.  Oppose what you disagree with.  Just don’t be so certain that you have the one and only true vision of what is best, lest you become a yet another ideological roadblock and put the inside of still more windshields at risk.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Steam Engines, Headnotes and 91%

mmw_SPrailroad The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1868 and Section 1 of that amendment begins this way:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (bold and italics mine – JA)

Those are the “due process” and the “equal protection” clauses of the Constitution.  Look at the date of the amendment and consider what the amendment says and you’ll be quite clear about its intent: This was entirely about protecting and advancing the condition of former slaves.  In the wake of the Civil War many southerners did whatever they could to retain their former advantage, this to the extreme disadvantage of former slaves, now free in name only, so this amendment was both clear and necessary.

Eighteen years later a lawsuit appeared on the docket of the Supreme Court.  Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad was a tax jurisdiction case that tested the provisions of then-new California laws against those of the federal government.  The case was decided in favor of the railroad and, oddly, that turned out to be the least important thing associated with this lawsuit.

The court reporter for the Supreme Court was Mr. J. C. Bancroft Davis.  He, like other court reporters of his day, was far more than a stenographer for the cases presented before the court.  Back then the job of court reporter was a most prestigious position and Mr. J.C. Bancroft Davis was actually paid more money than Chief Justice Morrison Remick Waite.

Recordings of the proceedings were made with up to-the-moment technology, ink pen and paper, and Mr. J.C. Bancroft Davis had the good fortune to be allowed to publish his recordings of the proceedings and collect royalties for his efforts.  Along with his best efforts to record the case by hand, he was allowed to publish what were called “headnotes”.  These are comments of the court reporter and were not part of the court’s opinions or rulings, nor intended by the court as legal precedent.  Indeed, headnotes were not even from the court proceedings, but were solely the comments of the court reporter.

Here is what Mr. J.C. Bancroft Davis wrote in his headnotes to the publication of the proceedings of the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case:

The defendant corporations are persons within the intent of the clause of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States  .  .  .  “

Corporate “personhood” was not tested before the court in this case; remember that this was a simple tax jurisdiction issue.  That makes what followed Mr. J.C. Bancroft Davis’ writings the strangest part of this case:  Davis’ headnotes, his editorial opinion, has been cited as precedent for all of the efforts to give corporations the same rights as flesh and blood human beings ever since.

That’s right: A constitutional amendment that was designed to protect former slaves was and is being used to give artificial personhood to inanimate corporations.  It is what is allowing billions of corporate dollars to influence our elections and bend legislation and regulation to the desires of those same corporations.  It is what drives huge cash contributions to political candidates and influences voting in Congress.

Right now 91% of Americans want universal background checks and registration for all gun sales.  Legislation to accomplish that is clumsily being cobbled together in Congress but getting our corporately influenced legislators to do the will of the people is proving to be really difficult.  And to reemphasize the insanity causing that, the engine driving congressional intransigence is based not on the decision of a court, but on an editorial opinion of one court reporter

That strange and damaging precedent was set one hundred forty five years ago and we are still feeling its effect, perhaps now more than ever.  Likewise, the decisions we make today will be felt by our descendents one hundred forty five years from now.  That is to say, just as sure as the flow of impact from Mr. J.C. Bancroft Davis’ headnotes to us, there will be an impact of what we do today on our great-great-great-grandchildren when they are adults just like you.

You can be passive and do nothing; that is your right as an American.  After all, you have the right to vote, but not the legal obligation.  You have the right to appeal to your elected officials to act as you prefer, but that is not a requirement of citizenship, either.

On the other hand, you might want to close your eyes and envision the America you want for your children, your grandchildren and, if you can see that far, for your great-grandchildren.  Likely, if you do nothing, that’s not what they’ll inherit.  Indeed, unless you speak up, the vision of people who want a very different America from the one you want will be the America of tomorrow, because those people will be the only ones talking.

Perhaps you really do have something to say to your legislators.  Go ahead.  Tell them.  Now.

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How Gullible Are We?

President Bush had intelligence information in advance of 9/11 that clearly and plainly warned of a plot by al Qaeda to attack America.  He was told that they might use airplanes and that an attack was imminent.  And he dismissed all of it and even belittled an agent who brought him information, saying, “Alright, you’ve covered your ass”.  How interesting that Bush’s thinking process was about ass covering, rather than protecting and defending America.

That he didn’t read his briefings and dismissed critical national security information merely provides more examples of his lifelong unwillingness to learn.  Some are dedicated to ignorance.  That’s not shocking.  Here’s what is.

After over 2,800 of our countrymen and scores of foreign nationals were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania, Bush and Cheney actually told us that they had protected America from terrorist attacks.  Yet not even that oft-repeated lie was not what was most shocking.  The truly shocking part is that the majority of Americans believed them.  How gullible are we?

They told us that they didn’t authorize torture.  Yet on February 14, 2010, the former Vice President admitted in an interview that he did authorize torture and that he had directed his aides to manipulate the legal issues so that he could get away with it.  Before that, though, he told the lie that, “America doesn’t torture,” even after it was public knowledge that prisoners who had been convicted of nothing at all were being waterboarded, something that has been recognized as torture since the Spanish Inquisition.  And the majority of us bought the lies.  How gullible are we?

Dick Armey, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty are high on their Tea Bagging fantasies.  They’re playing on peoples’ sensibilities, demanding small government and low taxes and they rally their true believers in hatred of anything that isn’t them, which attracts a generous sampling of white supremacist groups and immigrant and gay haters.  Disappointingly, mainstream Republicans are sucking up to these extremists for fear of losing a few votes.  That’s because what is important to them is staying in power, not what’s best for America.

Many people buy the extremist arguments, talking about the stimulus package as though there would be no adverse impact of doing things differently.  But there would be.

If we end the stimulus, the programs that the money would have funded will end.  People will lose their jobs, as will all the people who make the things those then-unemployed folks would have purchased.  It’s a multiplier effect of job losses.

So, let’s try a little test of their dedication to the Tea Bag.  We’ll get a bunch of Tea Baggers together and ask to see a show of hands of everyone who is willing to lose his or her job so that we can shrink the size of government and lower taxes for everyone.  Note that we’ll want to do our very best work at minimizing government, so we won’t supply any unemployment benefits to them.  Do you think anyone will raise a hand?  Likely not, but hundreds of thousands of Americans are having temper tantrums over government spending anyway.  How gullible are we?

178 Republican representatives voted against the stimulus package.  That’s all of the Republican representatives.  At least 111 of the NO voters have gone home to their districts and smiled at ribbon cutting ceremonies and at the handing out of oversized checks, bragging about the jobs that will be generated for their constituents because of the stimulus money they brought with them.  They were proud to bring home the bacon, this from a bill they voted against.  And most of those hypocrites will be reelected.  How gullible are we?

Democracy requires an enlightened citizenry, Thomas Jefferson told us.  Unfortunately, those with the loud megaphones are interested only in themselves and their power, so they play us by filling our ears with lies and misinformation.  They manipulate us and play us for fools.

One last time: Just how gullible are we?

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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